Being a Fenske is a bit like being a member of a bizarre gang.
We don’t wear matching bandannas or commit felonies, but we do have a complex set of rituals that make no sense to outsiders and must be strictly followed under the threat of death.
Take phone calls, for instance. If I’m speaking with my parents or brother and the conversation starts to wrap up, here’s what you’ll hear:
“So I’ll see you Sunday? OK, great. Nice to meet you.”
The last part of that sounds more like, “nastameetcha,” which is no less perplexing to listeners than if we enunciated it correctly. It’s essentially a Fenske-ism for “goodbye,” and the first time my husband heard it, he was mystified.
“Who was that?” he asked.
“And you told her it was nice to meet her?”
He stared at me. “Have you been drinking?”
There actually is a story behind it, but I’m doubtful any of us could remember it if pressed.
It’s the same thing with my brother’s name. My mom was talking to a non-family member recently and mentioned that “Aaron” would be joining us for dinner.
“Who?” I asked.
See, when my brother and I were both wee youngsters, the family watched National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. Somehow, the names stuck. Yell “Clark” in a crowded store and my father will come running, and my mom is most certainly “Ellen.”
The name stuck most firmly for my brother, to the point that many people have no idea his name isn’t “Russ.”
You might assume that would make me “Audrey,” which is true only to my parents. To my brother, I have always been “Butthead.”
I didn’t realize how ingrained the name was until I received a thank you card from his longtime girlfriend and realized she had no idea how to spell my real name.
And don’t get me started on the Fenske name for black licorice (“dung-a-dung,”) or underwear (“shatz”) or the fact that no member of the Fenske clan is capable of walking over a bridge without spitting off the edge.
Do you have any unusual family rituals that perplex outsiders? Please share.
I’ll be getting ready for our annual Christmas Eve dinner at the local Chinese restaurant. It’s tradition.